South Carolina School District is First in Nation to Recycle Old Ceiling Tiles

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As Part of Renovation Project, Fort Mill Primary School Recycles
Old Acoustical Ceiling Panels Rather Than Sending Them to Landfill

Nearly 18 tons of sagging, dingy old ceiling tiles from a Fort Mill, South Carolina school will soon find new life.

The reason: the Fort Mill School District is the first in the country to recycle its old acoustical ceiling panels rather than sending them to a landfill.

Located approximately 20 miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina, just over the South Carolina border, the rapidly growing Fort Mill School District is in the midst of a $48.3 million building plan that includes the construction of three new elementary schools and the conversion of the Fort Mill Primary School into a full elementary school.

As part of the renovation and expansion of the primary school, the district replaced 35,000 square feet of ceiling panels.  It also replaced all the carpeting and painted all the walls.  When completed, the newly renovated school will move from a K-2 school with a capacity of 650 students to a K-5 school with a capacity of 919 students.

In a renovation project of this type, old suspended ceiling panels would normally be removed, thrown into a dumpster, and eventually taken to a landfill for disposal.  In the case of the Fort Mill Primary School, however, the old panels will find new life as a result of a ceiling recycling program offered by Armstrong World Industries, the world's largest producer of acoustical ceilings. 

According to company officials, Fort Mill is the first school district in the nation to take advantage of the program.  And, they hope the pioneering recycling effort will have an impact on other school districts around the country.

Alternative to Landfill Disposal

The program, which is the first of its kind, enables schools, colleges and other non-residential facilities to ship old ceilings from renovation projects to an Armstrong ceiling plant as an alternative to harmful landfill disposal.  As part of the program, Armstrong even pays freight costs for shipping the old ceilings, which it uses as raw materials in the manufacture of new, high-performance acoustical ceilings.

The district learned about the ceiling recycling program from John Marr of All-Interior Supply in Charlotte, the distribution firm that supplied the new ceiling panels for the primary school.

"This was our first reclamation project in the Carolinas," he states.  However, he points out that Armstrong has had the ceiling recycling program in place for about a year, but most of the other reclamations have been from commercial office buildings. 

"Children learn about the importance of the environment and recycling in school, so it's only appropriate for schools to recycle.  It's simply the right thing to do," he says.

Ceiling recycling was also a new concept for Jim Britton, senior project manager for Southern Management Group, the firm overseeing the conversion of the Fort Mill primary school.  But, he can see the benefits of it.  "The other option is to put it in a dumpster and have it hauled away," he says.  "Recycling is more environmentally aware."

Program Involves Three Steps

The program itself involves three steps.  First, schools need to verify that their old ceiling panels can be recycled.  Neither the old nor the new replacement ceilings need to be Armstrong products to qualify for the program.  In the case of Fort Mill Primary School, the old 2'x 4' ceiling panels were found to be recyclable and thereby eligible for the program.

Following verification, schools must then stack their old ceiling tiles on pallets and wrap them for pick-up.  Once there is a full trailer load of old ceilings, it simply contacts Armstrong.  The company will then work with the school to arrange for a truck to pick up the material anywhere in the continental United States and transfer it to its nearest manufacturing facility.  Ceiling tiles from the Fort Mill school were shipped to the Armstrong plant in Macon, GA. 

In a recent time analysis, the process for recycling old ceilings proved to be nearly as fast as dumping them, so the program has little, if any, adverse impact on demolition schedules.  It can also be less expensive than the cost of local handling, transport, dumpster and landfill fees.
According to Assistant Superintendent, Karen Puthoff, recycling the ceiling panels didn't necessarily cut the cost of renovating the primary school, but it did save the district valuable time, which was an important consideration. 

"We were on a tight schedule this summer because the school year started early this year," she states.  "Recycling in this way actually sped things up for the contractor, and anything we could do to save time had more value to us than money." 

To obtain additional information on the Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program call 1-877-ARMSTRONG
(1-877-276-7876) or visit on the Internet for complete product information.


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